Top high school basketball teams see seasons paused because of positive COVID-19 tests

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Multiple high school boys basketball teams in The News Super 20, including No. 2 Ann Arbor Huron, No. 5 U-D Jesuit and No. 13 Warren De La Salle, have been forced to pause because of COVID-19.

Huron pulled out a 57-51 overtime win over rival Ann Arbor Skyline in the season opener, then went on to defeat Ypsilanti (51-31) and Monroe (47-26) on Feb. 17 before being forced to the 10-day quarantine due to a positive test.

Coach Pat Donnelly, shown during a game last season, and U-D Jesuit won't be able to return to practice until March 2.

“We’re in quarantine," Huron coach Waleed Samaha said. "We had a positive case on our team, so they shut us down for 10 days; it happened last Wednesday. We had just one player test positive, and even he had very mild symptoms. His parents got him tested and that was the smart thing to do; it prevented us from spreading it among ourselves.”

Samaha and his staff are keeping in contact with the players via Zoom calls. 

“We’ve only had three contact practices since last March and our quarantine is over Friday," he said. "We’re going to have zero practices, then play at Saline Friday night, then host Pioneer at noon Saturday.”

For subscribers: David Goricki's boys high school basketball rankings: Feb. 21

Big things were expected from Huron after it finished 21-1 last season, returning four starters, including a possible Mr. Basketball finalist in 6-6 guard Julian Lewis (William & Mary).

“It’s so strange, things feel so strange and really the last game we played where things felt kind of normal was when we played Lincoln at EMU,” said Samaha, noting Huron’s 64-54 win over defending Division 1 state champion Ypsilanti Lincoln and Emoni Bates before nearly 5,000 fans at Eastern Michigan's Convocation Center March 3. Lewis had 20 points and six rebounds while Bates scored 29, but on 8-of-27 shooting, 3-of-11 3-pointers.

Huron was set to play Lincoln in a district championship game when COVID-19 shut down the season.

“I still have a text message from Chris Westfall, Lincoln’s athletic director; I looked at it the other day, don’t know why I did that to punish myself, but I did,” Samaha said. “The message from Chris Westfall said let’s plan when they bring us back on April 6, let’s plan on having three days of re-acclimation practice, let the kids get back into shape and let’s play the game on Wednesday, April 9. Looking back at that now, all you can say is what a joke. What were we thinking?”

Samaha says he thinks Huron will get in 14 games before the start of the state tournament March 23.

U-D Jesuit was set to play last Saturday night against No. 1 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, a team which ended U-D Jesuit’s run of seven straight Catholic League championships last season, when a player woke up with COVID symptoms that morning.

“We had a player wake up Saturday with COVID symptoms, so his parents took him to get a test,” U-D Jesuit coach Pat Donnelly said. “I called Todd (St. Mary’s coach Covert) and told him of our situation, told him he wouldn’t know the results until Sunday, but if he was positive and we played, not only would we have to quarantine, but they would, too.

“We decided to cancel the game and he tested positive, so it was a good move. We had guys upset, but we told them it’s better to have it happen now then during the state tournament.”

U-D Jesuit will get the rematch with St. Mary’s on March 13, or just before the Catholic League playoffs. Donnelly did say he would have to cancel Monday’s scheduled game with No. 10 Ferndale, since it won’t be able to get back to practice until March 2, then play at De La Salle on March 4.

De La Salle also had a player wake up with COVID symptoms Saturday morning, leading to coach Gjon Djokaj canceling De La Salle’s scheduled game with Eastpointe.

Eastpointe quickly found an opponent in PSL champion Detroit Cass Tech, which defeated Eastpointe 58-55 in quadruple overtime.

After the March 4 game with U-D Jesuit, De La Salle will play host to St. Mary’s on March 6.